My rating: 5 of 5 stars
In our highly-charged, inflamed moment in history when people are throwing out the maxim, "Gender is a social construct," and heroes are made out of individuals who blend, bend, revamp and rewrite their sex, both inside and outside of Church, what is a body to do? And more specifically, how can Christians know what's right or wrong? Help has arrived in the 256 page paperback "enGendered: God's Gift of Gender Difference in Relationship" written by Sam A. Andreades, a Presbyterian pastor and the founder of Higher Ground, a New York City ministry of Christian discipleship serving those with unwanted same-sex attractions. This volume is ideal for marriage seminars, as well as for homework in marriage counseling and pre-marriage classes.
Andreades addresses himself to the topic of gender, what it is, and how it functions, from a biblical perspective: "this book takes a systematic theological approach to the teaching on gender found in the Bible" (25). And the author is serious about the "in the Bible" part! As he works through Judges, and other passages of Scripture, a reader's eyes will become large with surprise, and there will be quite a few "Aha!" moments. I have been a preacher and Bible teacher for almost 28 years - all told - and I found myself saying "wow!" a time or two!
The author is very clear that "the Bible sees gender as a...gift [of God] added upon our biology, shaping our identities and deeply revealing of God's self". In fact, "the Bible gives us a better place to look for our manhood and womanhood. And it is not in cultural practices" (37-8). Andreades gingerly dances his way through the Trinitarian perichoresis (that inner relationship between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit - where the Son, who is equal with the Father nevertheless submits to the Father; and the Spirit who is equal with the Father and the Son, notwithstanding, submits to the Father and the Son). Then he draws from it the value of the interrelationships between men and women. This brings him to see that in marriage, husband and wife are equal "before God, and equal in their charge of taking dominion, yet in relationship the man is to take charge and representation for her sake, the woman to promote him to the place of responsibility for his sake" (72). He then fleshes out how this looks, sounds and acts through most of the book. One of the ways this works out is in reference to the wife submitting to her husband. Based on Ephesians 5, her submission is a gift, and then Andreades asserts "the Bible never tells husbands to make their wives submit - quite the contrary" (111). Beautiful! Just plain beautiful!
What adds color to "enGendered" is that Andreades has done extensive interviews with men who have been same-sex attracted, many of whom were in monogendered (man-man) relationships, but have since become deeply committed to their intergendered (one man and one woman) marriages. Many of these interviews and observations show how valuable gender distinctions are, and the ways they benefit men and women in life-long relationships. I found this aspect of the book highly intriguing, and it will be an encouragement to those who are faced with unwanted same-sex attractions.
And, of course, gendered relationships have to be dealt with in the church, which is another family context. Therefore, the principle still applies, equal in essence, in economy fulfilling different roles. Andreades does a wonderful job in unpacking this aspect. My only disagreement has to do with his handling of 1 Corinthians 11.5 ("but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven") which he takes as apostolic approval of a woman taking a public, vocal role in a church's gathering. It seems to me that Paul is simply using one of the Corinthian church's practices to make his point, and then Paul corrects their practice in chapter 14 where he is dealing with public-speaking roles (see 1 Corinthians 14.33-40). But the way the author handles 1 Timothy 2.8-15 is excellent, especially the manner in which he hearkens back to Genesis 2-3.
"enGendered" is a refreshingly delightful and clarifying book. It is filled with biblical reflections, eye-opening surprises, and heartwarming descriptions. I know for certain that every pastor should have a copy and read it studiously, making notes, marking it up, underlining and highlighting. But also married couples - whether recently married or joined together decades ago - will gain much from Andreades's material. I highly and happily recommend the book!
My huge thanks to the author, whom I met once at our denomination's General Assembly in June 2018. When I saw his book, I was immediately taken up with it and asked him for a copy to be sent to me. Once his editors were done with their business he immediately forwarded a free edition which I used for this review. All of the perceptions and perspectives written herein are my own, and are freely given.
The book can be purchased here: enGendered
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